After the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature refused to extend the emergency and disaster declaration that was set to expire at midnight on Thursday night, Governor Gretchen Whitmer took swift action by signing three new executive orders to continue fighting COVID-19 and save lives.
“COVID-19 is an enemy that has taken the lives of more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam War,” said Governor Whitmer. “While some members of the legislature might believe this crisis is over, common sense and all of the scientific data tells us we’re not out of the woods yet. By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen.”
“Today I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to make sure our health care workers and first responders have the tools they need to save lives and protect Michiganders,” said Whitmer. “We’re all in this together. Defeating COVID-19 is an all hands on deck moment for our state, and I remain hopeful that Republicans in the legislature will stop the partisan games and start working with me to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”
The executive orders cite extensive data validating the existence of an emergency and disaster across the State of Michigan. Specifically, although the pace of COVID-19 spread has showed signs of slowing, the virus remains aggressive and persistent: to date, there have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 3,789 deaths from the disease—fourfold and tenfold increases, respectively, since the start of this month. And while COVID-19 initially hit Southeast Michigan hardest, the spread is now increasing more quickly in other parts of the state. For instance, cases in some counties in Western and Northern Michigan are now doubling every 6 days or faster.
Moreover, the economic damage wrought by this pandemic—already severe—will continue to compound with time. Between March 15 and April 18, Michigan had 1.2 million initial unemployment claims. This amounts to nearly 24% of the Michigan workforce. During this crisis, Michigan has frequently processed more unemployment claims in a single day than the most painful week of the Great Recession, and the state has already reached its highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. On April 9, 2020, economists at the University of Michigan forecasted that the U.S. economy will contract by 7% in the second quarter of this year, or roughly an annualized rate of 25%. As a result, many families in Michigan will struggle to pay their bills or even put food on the table.
Today’s orders include:
• Executive Order 2020-66, which terminates the existing state of emergency and disaster declarations issued under the Emergency Management Act in Executive Order 2020-33.
• Executive Order 2020-67, which clarifies that a state of emergency remains in effect under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. The order is effective immediately and continues through May 28, 2020 at 11:59pm. The governor will evaluate the continuing need for this order prior to its expiration, and if she determines that an emergency no longer exists, will terminate or extend the state of emergency declared in this order.
• Executive Order 2020-68, which declares a state of emergency and a state of disaster across the State of Michigan under the Emergency Management Act of 1976. The state of emergency and state of disaster declared by this order will be effective through May 28, 2020 at 11:59pm, and the governor will evaluate the continuing need for the order prior to its expiration, terminate the states of emergency and disaster if the threat or danger has passed.
Senate Bill 858, which passed the legislature today, does not comply with constitutional requirements. Moreover, the governor will not sign any bills that constrain her ability to protect the people of Michigan from this deadly virus in a timely manner. The governor intends to veto this bill when presented to her.